An honest look at the Buccaneers at mid season

Dayna O’Gorman Senior Sports Editor

By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG

Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were pretty excited after the first few games of the season. Even with starting quarterback Jameis Winston suspended, they were winning games and back up QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was putting up great numbers.

Then the tide turned and the team began a slide that fans were hoping wouldn’t come.

I spoke with Chris Fisher, former Bucs podcaster, who can always be counted on for unflinching analysis. He gave me his impression of this team, where it’s headed, and what we can expect from this week’s game against the New York Giants.

Tampa Bay is sitting at the bottom of the division, but just one game behind Atlanta. After such a hot start, what do you think are the biggest issues facing the Bucs at midseason?

Well, I certainly didn’t think the Bucs would be sitting at 3-6 after opening up with wins against the Saints (their only loss) and Eagles.  There are a laundry list of issues this team has endured this season with injuries to key players on defense, the firing of Mike Smith because of awful defensive play, Chandler Catanzaro’s misses, which has led to his release, quarterback shuffling, but ultimately, the biggest issue facing the Bucs currently is their turnovers on offense and lack of getting takeaways on defense.  

The Bucs are dead last in the NFL in turnover margin per game, averaging -2.1 and -3.3 over the last three weeks.  Regardless of if it’s Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bucs have a league-high 19 interceptions thrown this season.  That’s more than Arizona, Buffalo, and the NY Jets who have started rookies or a slew of backups this season.  It’s a staggering and mind-boggling issue right now.  Ultimately, the offense turns the ball over too much and the defense can’t take the ball away.  No matter how many yards your offense puts up if they turn the ball over it’s not going to lead to wins.

Fitzpatrick or Winston. Why?

 Well, this is the ultimate question right now, but Dirk Koetter has already announced that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter this week for the game against the New York Giants, which came as surprising news to fans and some media, as well.  I believe that Dirk has lost faith and confidence in Jameis Winston, and feels that Ryan Fitzpatrick gives the team the best chance to win now versus down the road.  

Jameis Winston played his worst game as a pro against the Cincinnati Bengals in a very winnable game by throwing four interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.  This led to him being pulled from the game and insert Ryan Fitzpatrick who led a miraculous comeback, only to lose on a late FG because the defense couldn’t stop the Bengals at the end of the game.  It cost Jameis Winston his job as the starter, but it’s not like Ryan Fitzpatrick is performing at the level he was in the first two weeks of the season. 

It’s not shocking because this is what Ryan Fitzpatrick has always been in the NFL.  Fitzpatrick had thrown five total interceptions through five games but has now thrown four in his last two starts.  It’s been an interesting scene in Tampa as a large majority of fans were done with Jameis Winston after his performance in Cincinnati.  Now, you see those same fans ready to see him again as the starter. 

It’s been just a crazy and odd year for Bucs fans.  It’s widely known that Dirk Koetter’s job is on the line this season, and it’s not looking good for him right now to be the Bucs’ coach in 2019.  He ultimately feels that Ryan Fitzpatrick gives this team the best chance to win now, but it would not surprise me at all if we see Jameis Winston playing again very soon.  If I was making the decision, I’d be starting Winston, but I’m looking at it more from a down the road standpoint versus what Dirk Koetter is looking at, which is the potential loss of his job.

Looking at the upcoming game against the NY Giants, it seems like a winnable game, and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) is chomping at the bit to get back at his old team. What are the keys to winning this game?

 Well, for Bucs’ fans sakes, I sure hope that JPP is motivated to face his former team because he’s been nearly invisible over the last few games.  I’m not fully confident in the Bucs picking up a win this week.  Even with the Giants only winning two games this season, they are loaded with some offensive talent, and the Bucs have struggled on defense this season.  

This game will ultimately come down to turnovers.  The Bucs need to stop their streak of turning the ball over.  The offense can’t turn the ball over at the rate they have over the last three games and expect the defense to bail them out, because they won’t.  I do not like the matchups of the Bucs corners against the Giants receivers.  

This could be a huge week for Eli Manning and his targets if the Giants offensive line gives him time to throw.  Unfortunately, it looks like the Bucs may be without their best linebacker this week if Lavonte David does not dress.  With them already missing Kwon Alexander for the season, this doesn’t bode well for trying to slow Saquon Barkley

It’s getting pretty ugly down in Tampa in regards to the outlook of this football team, and I don’t see it being a positive result this week in New York.  The Bucs only chance to win this week would be for them to play a completely turnover-free game on offense this week and score a touchdown on each red zone visit.  I feel the offense will have to score more than 34 points this week to secure a win, but I see the Giants winning this one.

 Looking at the rest of the season, where do you think the Bucs end up in the division and what do you think their record will be?

I stated after the loss to Washington that it wouldn’t surprise me if this team doesn’t win another game this season, and I still feel that way.  Even with facing the Giants and 49ers over the next couple weeks, I’m not confident at all that the team will win either game.  Then comes additional games against the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers.  Unless this team gets hot and gets hot quick, it’s going to be a brutal end of the season and the Glazers may say goodbye to both Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht.  

Bucs’ fans are used to this team floundering at the end of the year, and this is starting to look very similar to what we’ve seen in years past.  The odd thing is on paper this is the most talented offensive team the Bucs have ever had, but if you turn the ball over and don’t convert redzone trips into touchdowns, it doesn’t result in wins.  Unfortunately, I see the Bucs finishing last in the NFC South for the third year in a row.  If I had to guess on a win total, I do not think they’ll be more than 5-11, but 4-12 looks very likely to me.  I hope I’m wrong with this prediction.

We will have to wait and see if Chris’s prediction is wrong or not, but a lot is riding on this game on Sunday. A huge thank you to Chris for shedding light on this year’s Bucs team. You can find him on Twitter at @BBPChris.

Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG

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